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Mental Health Bed Interim Committee Meets

MentalHealth (Sept. 30, 2022) – Yesterday, the special committee on mental health beds, chaired by Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick), met at Wichita State University. Kansas Hospital Association members Vallerie Gleason, president and CEO, NMC Health, Newton and Preston Sauers, CEO, Kingman Healthcare Center, Kingman testified before the committee.

The committee heard about the need for additional mental health beds, in addition to some interim steps that can be taken to create a fund designed to reimburse for staffing for patient observation in hospitals, law enforcement agencies, designated county facilities and community mental health centers.

Gleason's overview included:

  • State of mental health needs in the area, including the adolescent population
  • The relationship between the emergency department and access to behavioral health care in acute care settings
  • Scenarios and the toll on hospital staff, other patients and the broader community
  • A compelling description of what it is like to care for this patient population.

The testimony Sauers' gave was from the perspective of a rural hospital system with access to services in nearby Wichita. He shared with the committee staffing solutions his organization has deployed to address unique patient needs and highlighted the challenges in both patient observation costs and transportation.

Representing the Kansas Association of Counties, Jay Hall and Lon Pishny from Finney County spoke about locals having to budget for patient observation and transportation in addition to the tolls on emergency medical services.

Ed Klumpp, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, the Kansas Sheriffs Association, and the Kansas Peace Officers Association, spoke about the programs the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services has instituted to assist in these areas. The committee heard about the constitutional concerns of law enforcement holding these patients without treatment and about a lawsuit filed against the state relating to the topic. He highlighted the wait times reported by KDADS at Osawatomie and Larned and the costs produced by the wait times. He emphasized that in fiscal year 2022, the total wait time was 107,821 hours or 12.3 years on a waitlist for admission. He stressed more beds are needed, but this immediate step is also required.

Michelle Ponce, Association of Community Mental Health Centers testified about the work that they are doing to alleviate strains on the system and added support for a behavioral health observation program.

In the afternoon, testimony was received from the following area delegates on current approaches, needs and options for possible solutions:

  • David Dennis, Sedgwick County Commissioner 
  • Jeff Easter, Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office
  • Marc Bennett, district attorney, Sedgwick County
  • Tom Stolz, county manager, Sedgwick County
  • Tim Kaufman, deputy county manager, Sedgwick County
  • Steve Dixon, Workforce Development Committee chair, Sedgwick County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition

State agencies presented testimony on statewide mental health workforce initiatives, including:

  • Scott Brunner and Andy Brown, KDADS
  • Leisa Dipman, Superintendent of Larned State Hospital
  • Dr. Michael Burke, Larned State Hospital
  • Dr. Mike Dixon, Acting Superintendent Osawatomie State Hospital

Ascension Via Christi Hospitals Wichita, President Robyn Chadwick spoke regarding the need for Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance reimbursement. She highlighted that 75 percent of patients are Medicare, Medicaid or uninsured, with Medicaid reimbursements equating to less than the cost of care. She walked the committee through patient diagnosis-related group and reimbursement realities and emphasized reimbursements are often tied to days dependent on the DRGs but that often patients have to receive care for far longer than the DRG codes allow. She requested a 10 percent increase in in-patient and outpatient Medicaid reimbursement rates. She highlighted how as reimbursement rates have fallen; private industry has closed lines of service to behavioral health patients.

The next meeting will be Oct. 27, with workforce being the primary area of focus.